Let’s face it. For kids, the success of a camping trip rarely hinges on what waterfalls you see, what birds you hear, or how great the hike was. Kids likely will remember two things: the weather and the food.
You can’t control the weather, but you can make food a highlight of every excursion, whether that’s a short day trip or a multiday backcountry adventure.
My wife, Sarah, and I spent seven seasons as croo in the AMC high huts system and another six as trail crew leaders for the Student Conservation Association. Below are a couple of key campfire tips from our years on the trail, followed by a few favorite recipes that kids of all ages are sure to love.
CAMPFIRE COOKING HINTS
When cooking over a campfire, always be sure to follow Leave No Trace (LNT) principles and to use established fire rings wherever possible. (Read more about minimal-impact campfires.) Once you’ve mastered LNT, you’re ready to cook.
- Build a nice, hot fire and let most of the wood burn down to coals. The coals, not the actual flame, will act as your cooking element.
- If you start running low on heat, add more wood to the opposite side of the fire, away from your food. Once the coals build up, transfer them to the cooking side.
CAMPING RECIPE: HOBO DINNER
Every hungry camper gets a sheet of heavy-duty tinfoil, about 1 foot square. Layer the following on the foil, from bottom to top:
Wrap to create your hobo pocket. Don’t just scrunch up the foil; it will leak. Bring the edges together and fold them neatly over each other one or two times, the way you would a paper bag. Adding a second layer of foil will keep the food from scorching.
- Sliced onions
- 1/3 lb lean ground beef or turkey
- Sliced potatoes
- Sliced carrots, corn, peppers, or other veggies
- A few pats of butter
- Salt and pepper, powdered Italian dressing, or Worcester sauce (Seasoning is key!)
Bury your hobo packet in medium-hot coals and cook for about 40 minutes. Carefully remove and unfold the foil to check for doneness. If your packet needs more time, fold it up neatly, put it back on the fire, and check it every five minutes.
CAMPING RECIPE: COZY PIGS
This dinner will delight even the youngest kids, but patience is a must to avoid burning those piggy blankets. You’ll need:
Wrap each dog in a roll, making sure the roll ends overlap so the whole thing stays together. Skewer your dog on a long stick and cook it over the coals. Here again, cooking over the coals will decrease the char and smoke, and you can control the heat. Once the rolls are golden brown, they’re ready to eat.
- Hot dogs
- Refrigerator crescent rolls
CAMPING RECIPE: BROWNIES IN AN ORANGE
This is the simplest and possibly the most mind-blowing of all campfire foods. You’ll need:
Cut the tops off your oranges, as if you were carving a pumpkin. Scoop out the orange innards with a spoon, eating as you go and reserving the orange tops. Spoon in your brownie batter, filling each orange shell no more than half full.
- Unbaked brownie batter (Our favorite mix is Ghiradelli, although from-scratch is always best!)
- 6 to 8 large navel oranges
Put the tops back on the oranges, wrap them in foil, and bury them in medium-hot coals. Bake for 20 to 30 minutes. The foil and the orange peel will temper the heat of the coals, allowing the brownie batter to bake slowly inside. Unwrap; peel back the orange shell; and enjoy supermoist, orange-infused, chocolately heaven.
Get advice on raising the next generation of outdoor enthusiasts in the Great Kids, Great Outdoors blog and find more tips and trip ideas in the Appalachian Mountain Club’s community for families, kids.outdoors.org.
This story by Ethan Hipple originally appeared in the June issue of AMC Outdoors Online.
Photograph by Ethan Hipple.
Labels: camping, Ethan Hipple, food